By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Shirley GRINDEL: Yes.
REBECCA: Shirley, what has been the biggest county boondoggle on your watch?
GRINDEL: The El Toro Airport. It occurred when George Argyros bypassed county government by placing his dictate for a county airport before the voters. He created a civil war between North County and South County.
REBECCA: But wasn't the Board of Supervisors complicit in that?
GRINDEL [cranky]: Don't say the board is for it! Two of the supervisors are obviously against it. So you can't say the board is for it! And the people are against it.
REBECCA: Okay. What has been the board's most egregious abdication of their responsibility to the people of Orange County?
GRINDEL: Their failure to prevent the 1994 county bankruptcy. If they hadn't been so concerned with their political careers, they would have seen what was coming. They closed their eyes to the activities of Bob Citron, who was the treasurer, because it was politically expedient. They never questioned how he could be making so much money. They didn't keep up with the due diligence that was their job.
REBECCA: Who is the best local official?
GRINDEL: I would have to say the one with the most integrity and balancing of issues would be Dan Slater of the city of Orange. He's on the City Council, and he's running for mayor.
REBECCA: And at the county level?
GRINDEL: It's not one of the elected officials. It's Vicki Wilson, manager of the Public Facilities and Resources Department. She's one of the best county officials I've seen since 1970.
REBECCA: Is that when you began watchdogging?
GRINDEL: I got involved in politics in 1969, and I've been watchdogging campaigns since 1978.
REBECCA: Who's the worst?
GRINDEL: Our district attorney, Tony Rackauckas. I have to be careful here because I don't want either of us to get sued. . . .
REBECCA: Oh, don't worry about that! As a public official, he has to show that we got something wrong and did it with intentional malice. You're allowed fair comment.
GRINDEL: Well, I don't know how far I can go with this. I know he does not have a high standard of ethics. He's not pursuing corruption cases because he's part of it. Let me give you an example. When he ran for office—and what I tell you, I can prove—he was getting a lot of donations from attorneys in the district attorney's office. There's a state law: you're not supposed to solicit people in the agency you're seeking to run for because it puts unfair pressure on them. He admitted it to me. I asked him, "Did you intend to solicit the people in your office?" And he said, "Oh, yes. I wanted to make sure everyone in the office had the opportunity to contribute." Well, he was investigated by the attorney general's office—the Justice Department. He told them, "Those names just happened to be on a larger list." He lied to the attorney general's office in order to not get in trouble. He had already told me exactly what he'd done. Before he even came to the office, he demoted a whole bunch of people. And guess what? Everyone who got demoted? Not a single one of them had made a contribution. And everyone who got promoted? Had made a contribution. The county will rue the day Mr. Rackauckas was elected to be the district attorney! I don't like him. He's a likable guy, but he's not what he appears. He is definitely not a Mike Capizzi, who, in my opinion, was squeaky-clean.
REBECCA: Let's talk about environmental-impact reports and the Irvine Co.
GRINDEL: I'm not taking on the Irvine Co. I think because they're so big, they're a target and they get a bad rap.
REBECCA: But don't they bend county rules?
GRINDEL: In my experience, most developers are greedy bastards, and I'm sure the Irvine Co. has a share of that. But it's been a pleasure working with them. For one, they have enough land that they can make good trade-offs. They've given a lot of land for county parks over the years, and I think there's more coming. Thank God we've got an outfit here that has enough land that it doesn't need to develop the sensitive areas.
REBECCA: Who's the worst developer?
GRINDEL: SunCal. They're responsible for a massive destruction of the hills in east Orange, north of Santiago Creek. They're putting 1,200 homes in there, with no school being provided! And they're impacting Santiago Oaks Regional Park with grading and runoff!
REBECCA: Who's your favorite supervisor?
GRINDEL: I'd have to say for political purposes, Todd Spitzer—I live in his district. But I have a good relationship with all of them.
REBECCA: So you won't tell me who the worst is?
GRINDEL: No. I'm not going to do that.
REBECCA: What makes you cry?
GRINDEL: The continued development of open space. I can get real sad about it.
REBECCA: Have a Kleenex!
GRINDEL: Out here, it's the last battle. It's really going to depend on the generosity of the Irvine Co. to keep it open. We've got enough people here. I'm not of the belief that we have to provide housing for everyone who wants to come here. If you don't build the houses, they won't come. If you drive out on Chapman Avenue, there are rolling hills, canyons, beautiful scenery! There's actual countryside. And that's what's left to develop. It's about 10 miles, between Cook's Corner and Irvine Park. Do you know Cook's Corner?